10 Things to See and Do in Cebu, Philippines

Cebu is one of the islands that comprises the country of the Philippines and also home to the city that bears the same name. Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines and a favorite tourist spot for foreigners and Filipinos alike. Cebu city is considered to be the oldest settlement in the Philippines established by the Spaniards. Cebu City is host to the annual Sinulog Festival honoring the patron Saint of the area Santo Nino. Pristine white beaches, excellent diving and snorkeling along with the opportunity to visit many cultural and historical sites all combine to offer tourists the perfect getaway.

10. 1730 Jesuit House

Located on a non-descript side street inside an operating warehouse, lies the oldest house in the Philippines. The current owner, who operates the hardware warehouse, bought it from a family that had owned it since the late 1900’s. Named the 1730 Jesuit House by a visiting Franciscan archivist in the early 1900’s. A coin from the Ming Dynasty, along with other artifacts found at the house suggest the home is much older and was possibly the home a Chinese merchant. Artifacts, document and old photographs are in the home which is now a museum and can be toured by buying a ticket at the warehouse.

Photo by: Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House
Photo by: Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House

9. Yap San Diego Ancestral House

Built sometime in the 1700’s by a Chinese merchant, the house is an example of what life was like in early Cebu. Hand carved furniture and antiques along with old pottery cooking utensils adorn the inside of the home. The roof of the house is 95 percent original and the old wooden staircase going up to the second floor shows where people for generations have ascended the stairs. The current owner is a well known choreographer in the Philippines. While he and his family still use the home on weekends you can visit any seven days of the week for a nominal fee.

Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr
Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr

8. Magellan Shrine

The Magellan Shrine is located on Mactan Island, adjacent to Cebu City. During the battle of Mactan in 1521. Magellan led a 49 man attack force to subdue Lapu-Lapu the local Chief and put the area under his control. What Magellan didn’t figure on were 1500 warriors who quickly killed Magellan and most of his crew. The Shrine is erected on the spot where the battle took place and next to the monument stands an impressive statue of Lapu-Lapu ever ready to repel aggressors. A small garden and plaza along with some souvenir shops are located on the grounds.

Photo by: shankar s. via Flickr
Photo by: shankar s. via Flickr

7. Museo Sugbo

Previously the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, the old building which dates back to the 1870’s is now home to the Cebu Provincial Museum. There are four permanent galleries and three special exhibition galleries that house artifacts, photos and documents detailing the political history of the Philippines and Cebu along with other historically important events. There is an exhibition displaying some of the artifacts from the shipwreck of the San Diego in 1600, alongside an exhibition on the detailed history during the Japanese occupation and Philippine independence.

Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr
Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr

6. Guitar Shops

Mactan Island is home to several of the country’s best guitar makers. Many of these shops have been around in some form or another for over a hundred years. Famous guitar making families like Allegre and Ferangeli Guitar have shops where you can not only watch how the guitars are made but the people are friendly and will give you guided tours of the facilities. People from all over visit the factories to purchase handmade stringed instruments made from exotic woods. After you watch the meticulous craftsmanship from the guitar maker, speak to one of the salesmen and pick out the perfect instrument for you.

Blues guitar

5. Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro was built in 1565 by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez De Legaspi and named after his ship. Used over the years by various militaries the fort now houses a museum where artifacts from early Cebu can be found along with the history of the Fort and Cebu. Tour the living quarters and see the various weapon emplacements along with exhibitions from shipwrecks and archaeological diggings. Originally built to secure the harbor and repel Muslim raiders it also served as a stronghold for Filipino revolutionaries. The small triangular fort is located at the Plaza de Independencia.

Fort San Pedro, Philippines

4. Carbon Market

The oldest and largest market in Cebu city is over 100 years old. Labeled as the biggest farmers market in the city, it is here that a variety of fresh produce can be found. The market also has stores selling fresh fish and meat, clothing, souvenirs and just about anything else you can think of. Named for the depot where coal was once offloaded from the railroad, Carbon Market is a favorite of locals and tourists. The market is located in downtown near many other tourist sights and offers a chance to experience the culture and meet people.

Art Phaneuf Photography / Shutterstock.com
Art Phaneuf Photography / Shutterstock.com

3. Cebu Taoist Temple

Built in 1972 by the Chinese Taoist community in Cebu, the temple is located in the Beverly Hills subdivision overlooking Cebu City. Easily reachable by taxi, you arrive at the front where 99 steps take you to the temple itself. Unlike many temples the Taoist Temple is open to visitors where you can view the temple itself and the statues. It is a popular site for tourists wanting beautiful photographs as it offers the perfect scenery. You can gain entry into the temple itself but there are dress codes such as no shorts. No photography is allowed of the inside of the temple, but it is open so you can easily see everything.

Cebu Taoist Temple

2. Magellan’s Cross

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who organized the Spanish expedition to locate a shorter route to the Spice Islands, landed in Cebu in 1521. Upon landing he ordered a Christian Cross be erected on the island. Today the cross is housed in a small chapel across the street from the Santo Niño Church. The original cross is encased inside another wooden cross in order to protect it. The chapel where the cross is located is easily accessible and attracts tourists and pilgrims alike. Whether the cross is actually there or it was destroyed or stolen and replaced by a replica, the site is still popular spot for tourists and photographers.

Magellan's Cross Cebu

1. Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño

Commonly called Santo Niño Church, the Basilica was founded in 1565 by Spanish Explorers where the image of the Santo Niño statue was found. The oldest Roman Catholic Church in the country was damaged when Typhoon Yolanda hit the island in 2013 and was closed for over a year. The church is now open again and welcoming worshipers and visitors. A museum on the premises houses antique relics and statues. The church houses the oldest religious image in the country and in 1941 was declared a National Historical Landmark.

Photo by: By Badz Patanag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: By Badz Patanag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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